Will rebuilt Attawapiskat church include new stained-glass windows?

·2 min read

The Attawapiskat community is getting a new church to replace the 104-year-old structure that burned to the ground last year. But the original creator of six precious stained-glass windows, Jackie Hookimaw-Witt, is still not sure if the intricate windows will be replaced.

Sebastien Groleau, who's with the Hearst-Moosonee Catholic Diocese, has confirmed that plans are underway to design and rebuild St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and resume services next year. He also confirmed to Hookimaw-Witt that there is $50,000 worth of federal funding available for new windows.

"We haven't seen the blueprint of the new church yet," said Hookimaw-Witt. "We don't know how many windows we will have this time. Nobody has shown us [anything]."

To carry out the window project, she contacted many people. But she said nobody came forward "but my brother Dominic Hookimaw, who is a carpenter, and my husband, Norbert Witt."

Some people involved in planning the windows are new to the project so there is some confusion, she said.

The original windows were meant to convey a message of healing and recovery from trauma, such as PTSD, stemming from the pain of residential schools. Hookimaw-Witt "wants to stop that dark part" of their lives by incorporating the same symbols of Indigenous spirituality into the new windows.

Hookimaw-Witt remembers the struggle to create the original windows. To cut expenses, they travelled to Ottawa to learn about stained-glass windows. They made one in Ottawa, and a more confident team made the remaining five on the reserve.

That struggle is why she felt heartbroken when she heard the news of the church fire. She remembered how she tried so hard to save the windows.

"I wrote to the Attawapiskat community bulletin that the church is on fire," she said. "But no one could save them. All of them were burned down to the ground with the rest of the church."

If the new church does not include stained-glass windows, Hookimaw-Witt still wants to create them. "Perhaps we could put them in the Human Rights Museum at Winnipeg or the Truth and Reconciliation Foundation," she said. "Because the purpose of the design is to heal from trauma."

Jinsh Rayaroth, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com

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